Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods

From the Blog

Want a Nature-Smart Career? 11 New Jobs for a Nature-Rich Future (and for Right Now

Want to make a decent living and a better life? Here's one way. Get a job – a nature-smart job. Or better yet, be a nature-smart entrepreneur. By that, I don't mean a career devoted only to energy efficiency. That's important, but there's a whole new category of green jobs coming. These careers and avocations will help children and adults become happier, healthier and smarter, by truly greening where people live, work, learn and play. 

Here are some exciting careers that you—and your kids— may never have considered:

1. Nature-smart workplace architect or designer. Studies of workplaces that have been created or retrofitted through biophilic (love of nature) design show improved product quality, customer satisfaction and innovation. Successful models include the Herman Miller headquarters building, designed for abundant natural light, indoor plants, and outdoor views, including views of a restored wetlands and prairie on company grounds. After moving into the building, 75 percent of day-shift office workers said they considered the building healthier and 38 percent said their job satisfaction had improved.

2. Restorative employee health and productivity specialist. To reduce employee stress and boost morale, companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Sunset magazine promote on-site organic vegetable gardens. The company Airbus now uses wilderness retreats as a reflective catalyst for leadership training. At least one company offers weeklong nature camps for adults who need to recharge their physical, emotional and intellectual batteries.

3. Nature-smart residential builder. They'll specialize in window-appeal (the view of nature from inside the home) — not just curb appeal. They'll know how to place a new house in sync with the sun's movements, use local materials to reflect the nature and history of the region, install a super-insulated green roof that can last 80 years, design for natural air-conditioning, and weave nature in homes and offices in even the most crowded urban neighborhoods.

4. Nature-smart yard and garden specialist, who will help homeowners and businesses reduce traditional lawns, and replace them with bird-attracting native vegetation, butterfly gardens, chlorine-free natural swimming ponds, organic vegetable gardens, beehives, places to raise chickens and ducks and gather eggs. As local governments continue to loosen regulations on yard farming, and as nearby production of food becomes more important, this specialty will become more popular.

5. Urban wildscaper. Urban designers, landscape architects, and other professionals who develop or redevelop neighborhoods that connect people to nature through the creation of biophilically-designed buildings and preservation of natural land will be increasingly in demand. They will design and establish biodiverse parks, urban forests and community gardens, wildlife corridors and other wild lands. Seattle recently announced plans for a massive urban forest that will produce free food. Wildscapers will also manage wildlife populations.

6. Outside-In decorator, who will bring the outside in, creating or improving our homes to nurture health and well-being through nature: "living walls" of vegetation that purify air; indoor vertical vegetable gardens with automatic drip-irrigation systems; biophilic decorations such as twig furniture; fluorescent lights that adjust throughout the day via light sensors at the windows; bird-warning elements for windows; indoor water gardens and other living features. So will individual homeowners decorating their own homes. This goes way beyond Feng Shui.

7. New Agrarian. Who's that? Urban farmers who design and operate community gardens. Designers and operators of vertical farms in high-rise buildings. Organic farmers and innovative vanguard ranchers who use sophisticated organic practices to produce food. The focus is on local, family-scale sustainable food, fiber, and fuel production in, near, and beyond cities.

8. Health care provider who prescribes nature. Ecopsychologists, wilderness therapy professionals, are going mainstream. Some pediatricians are now prescribing or recommending "green exercise" in parks and other natural settings to their young patients and their families. Hospitals, mental health centers, and nursing home are creating healing gardens. The Portland, Oregon parks department partners with physicians who send families to local parks, where park rangers serve as health para-profesionals. In the U.K., a growing "green care" movement encourages therapeutic horticulture, ecotherapy, and green care farming.

9. Green exercise trainer. Exercising indoors and outdoors seems to produce different results. Even when the same number of calories are burned. Outside exercise appears to have better results, especially for psychological well-being. Green exercise trainers can help individuals and families individually or by organizing "green gyms" and family nature clubs. "People walkers" can help the elderly take a hike.

10. Natural teacher. As parents and educators learn more about the brain-stimulating power of learning in natural settings, demand will increase for nature-based schools and nature-based experiential learning, providing new opportunities for natural teachers and natural playscape and school garden designers. Librarians can be natural teachers, too, creating bioregional "naturebraries."

11. Bioregional guide. We'll see the emergence of the citizen naturalist who, as professionals or volunteers, help people get to know where they live. One organization, Exploring a Sense of Place in the San Francisco Bay Area, guides groups that want to have a deeper understanding of the life surrounding them. Think of these guides as nature-smart Welcome Wagons who help us develop a deeper sense of personal and local identity.

The list of possible careers can go on. Stream restorers, law-enforcement officials who use nature for crime prevention and improved prison recidivism, specialists in nature-based geriatric services.
 Once the entrepreneurial spirit kicks in, it's easy to start thinking of products and services. And when people begin to consider the career possibilities of human restoration through nature, their eyes light up: here is a positive, hopeful view of the human relationship with the Earth, a way to make a living and a life.

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Richard Louv is chairman emeritus of The Children & Nature Network and author of eight books, including THE NATURE PRINCIPLE and LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS.

Follow Richard Louv on Facebook and @RichLouv on Twitter

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Comments

I have a silly question. What training is required for any of these nature-smart careers? I currently have a Master of Science degree in Environmental Microbiology and work for an environmental consulting company in a prairie city in Canada. I’m always been interested in urban design and have so many ideas for re/designing neighbourhoods, but felt trapped in that I would have to go back to university and spend another 6 years becoming an architect. There are no nature-smart positions where I live, and the architects and city planners have done a rather lousy job of planning our city and designing boring and uninspiring architecture. That, plus the fact that in my city, I would have to fight city hall, which is run by inept politicians that are still living in the dark ages, and about 50 years behind the rest of the world. Other the other hand, perhaps there is a bigger opportunity here. Any suggestions?

Can you indicate some of the scholarly research that is being done in these areas?  Particularly regarding natural teachers and bioregional guides (numbers 10 and 11).  As an elementary teacher, I am particularly interested in the importance of natural history in the development of young people.

Bam! I am carving out a unique niche at a very large cancer center by building programs based on the health and sustainability of not only our parks and gardens, but of the people that use them. My role as a facilities manager encompasses at least half of these nature-smart descriptions. I am so relieved to read this post and feel validated now. Many thanks!

your forgot wilderness therapies and parenting educator.  Both roles teaching people not only of the benefits of the outdoors, but also resilience and so many things about themselves that the outdoors opens children and adults alike up to!

Thanks for a great article

I have a silly question. What training is required for any of these nature-smart careers? I currently have a Master of Science degree in Environmental Microbiology and work for an environmental consulting company in a prairie city in Canada. I’m always been interested in urban design and have so many ideas for re/designing neighbourhoods, but felt trapped in that I would have to go back to university and spend another 6 years becoming an architect.

Very Good Article!

My wife will love the article. I will recommend to her.

A very good suggestion, however it misses one very important career in my opinion, which is Nature photographer. I am an environmental scientist and nature photographer, and I find that promoting the beauty and intricacy of our native ecosystems, in my case Australian ecosystems, is one of the most rewarding careers in life, and is also beneficial to the wider community and can serve as an eye-opener on a wide range of environmental issues.

Outstanding!, a breath of fresh air Richard, glad to have found your writing .

Richard- Do you have current folks that you highly reccommend and exist in each category? I am particularly interested in a nature-smart yard and garden specialist and an outside-in decorator. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Great article!

This is great. This article has given me whole new ideas about alternative career options. I am going to share them with young ones who are over-depending on government for jobs. Hopefully, they may just realize that “Nature Is An Entrepreneur”.

Thank you for sharing.

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